The Midland SubZero Headset is sure to get headphone purists looking down their noses for its central conceit alone, but the sound produced is perfectly pleasant. It avoids the harshness and muddy low-end of flat-out bad headphones and gives the impression of being fairly well-balanced.
Predictably, they don't stand up so well to closer scrutiny. They fail to cater for both extremes of the frequency spectrum, lacking top-end treble sparkle and power down in the lower bass register. As a result, they can sound a little flat.
However, they still sound surprisingly good, with decent warmth thanks to a pleasant swell in the parts of the bass make-up the headset is better at supplying. With a little more high-end detail, we might be quite happy giving them a thumbs-up without considering the ear-warming element.
Like many on-ear headphones, though, they are a little picky about positioning. Unless each speaker is resting directly above the ear canal, the channel balance will be out - with one ear louder than the other. Upon first trying the SubZero headset, you may need to spend a while moving them around to get perfect placement.
If you don't care about the earmuff design too much, better sound quality can be had for the same price from something like the Sennheiser HD202. These over-ear headphones will also provide protection from cold winds, although the direct contact with the quilted padding of the headset provides that extra kick of warmth and comfort.
They cost a little more than standard earmuffs, but the Midland SubZero Headset also provide inbuilt headphones. Sound quality is surprisingly reasonable too, although not as good as dedicated headphones at the same price. If having cold ears is getting you down, you can do worse than to pick up a pair.